by Dan Woog
August 6, 2007
It must have been a slow news week in San Diego.
In case your interest in baseball extends no further than the players’ skin-tight uniforms, here’s what happened. Tired of debating boring old subjects like Iraq, immigration, and Paris Hilton’s incarceration, San Diegans spent a good chunk of July on a far more important topic: Pride Night at Petco Park.
According to the “San Diego Union-Tribune,” which covered the story as thoroughly as David Wells hits the post-game buffet, the hometown Padres planned to hand out floppy hats to fans 14 and younger on July 8, the same night the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was scheduled to sing the national anthem. For the same game, San Diego Pride sold 1,000 tickets as part of “Out at the Park with the San Diego Padres.”
Let the fun begin!
Several Christian and conservative groups demanded a boycott. Seventy-five protesters arrived at the front gate, wearing red T-shirts urging baseball fans to “Save Our Kids.”
Talk of the boycott had spread as far as Michigan, where Brian Rooney, director of communications at the Christian-oriented Thomas More Law Center, sputtered: “These so-called ‘gay pride’ events are often debauched affairs of gross and inappropriate displays of public affection. Families would most assuredly not want to subject their children to this ‘alternate lifestyle’ – especially not at a baseball game.”
In a victory for gay pride (if not the Padres – they lost 5-4 to Atlanta), attendance was 41,026, just 1,500 shy of capacity.
But the protectors of America’s pastime went down swinging. Set Free Ministries, a local Christian organization, protested by withdrawing 42 workers from Petco concession stands for the day.
What, you wonder, are religious workers doing in concession stands in the first place? Turns out they’re volunteers; in return, the Padres give Set Free Ministries a cut of the take from peanuts and Crackerjack (and beer!).
The day after the game, San Diegans – ignoring their city’s gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches, and beckoning mountains – turned by the bazillions to the “Union-Tribune”‘s website, to offer their spin on this earth-shaking issue.
“Why do gays have to have their own night at the ballpark?????” one reader with an excess of question marks asked.
“Why do homosexuals act so weird?” another wondered, from his wormhole in the year 1907. “I mean the male ones try to act effeminate and the female ones try to act masculine. I believe they have a psychological deficit and need to be reconditioned.”
“When will they have pedophile night?” piped a very clever third contributor.
But our team slugged right back.
“Why are these bigoted jerks even allowed to volunteer at Petco Park?” one writer asked. “Can’t the Padres find a more deserving charity to support?”
“If religious whackjobs don’t like it they should have stayed in church on Sunday rather than attending secular baseball games,” whacked a second.
“I took my son to the game last night,” a contributor said. “We sat next to a group of three gay men who were far more courteous than some of the fans we have sat beside at other games. There was no making out near us, no vulgar language, and no sex in the stands….Go Padres!”
In response to an antigay poster that suggested having a “Muslim Gay Black Jewish White Christian Aethist [sic] and Illegal” event next time, someone offered: “That describes a normal day at the ballpark.”
Pointing out that the Pride Day attendance was 7,000 higher than the Padres’ average, this fan offered a different score: “Gays 1, Bigots 0.”
And, tongue firmly in cheek, a writer reported: “I took my son yesterday to the game. We had fun! But today he’s mincing about in a sun dress and singing Broadway musicals.”
Predictably, much of the back-and-forth involved scriptural quotes and interpretations. Dozens of posts referred to the commandment that man should not lie with another man. Many more countered with God’s admonitions to not judge, lest ye too be judged; to do unto others as you would have them do to you; to love thy neighbor as thyself, and to let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Beyond Leviticus, there were moments of levity. Someone noted the biblical injunction that if an ox gores a slave, the owner shall give the master 30 shekels of silver, and the ox should be stoned. How, one reader wondered, does an ox get stoned in the first place?
And, this being the Internet, a few postings were way off the outfield wall. “I don’t get baseball and am not a fan,” one response began. “I don’t have anything personal against gays. I just hate what they do to the cost of living when they move into a neighborhood. Home prices and rents skyrocket. And it’s always the best areas in any city.”
All of which gives new meaning to the old cry: “Take me out to the ballgame.”